Thunder in the Valley flies into action March 15-16

lgierer@ledger-enquirer.comMarch 6, 2014 

It has become an annual tradition.

People gather along the streets, in front yards and in parking lots outside the Columbus Airport. Some sit in lawn chairs and others on car hoods. They are there to catch a glimpse of the Thunder in the Valley Air Show without purchasing a ticket.

Event coordinator Phaedra Childers said people watching from outside the airport doesn't bother sponsors, but they are really only seeing a tiny amount of what is being offered.

"We wish they would come inside," she said. "There is so much for the family that can't be enjoyed from outside the gate."

This year's event on March 15-16 offers what organizers say is an air battle between good and evil. The Immortals show will feature stars of other headlining acts.

The Silver Wings Parachute Demonstration Team will also perform.

Franklin's Flying Circus features Kyle Franklin performing in his Demon-1 biplane known as "Dracula," an aircraft powered by a fuel-injected engine of more than 500 horsepower.

Melissa Pemberton will be performing an aerobatics show and a wingsuit skydive.

Vintage jets will soar through the sky.

The Georgia State Patrol Aviation Division, comprised of more than a dozen helicopters and a team of highly skilled pilots, will perform.

One of the major attractions that will not be in the air is the motorsports act performed by Paul Stender of Indy Boys Inc., which features jet-powered vehicles including a school bus traveling at 367 miles per hour.

Fort Benning will display modern weaponry and ground vehicles. The Maneuver Center of Excellence Band will play.

Attendees will be able to get a close-up view of several vintage aircraft.

Hands-on activities will be offered by The Archery Connection.

There will be a kids carnival featuring an inflatable slide.

Helicopter and airplane rides will be available.

"There will be all kinds of great food," Childers said.

Robert Kemp, Thunder in the Valley director of community relations, said, "This is an air show where people can get up close to the airplanes they have seen flying. They can talk with the pilots and get questions answered."

Childers said the air show usually attracts 20,000-25,000 paying customers. Last year, 16,015 came through the gate.

A last-minute pullout of modern U.S. military aircraft because of budget restraints hurt the air show.

Those aircraft have not been freed to perform this year, but the show's sponsors were able to plan ahead and fill gaps.

Proceeds from the show go to youth organizations in the Chattahoochee Valley. Last year, $41,000 was divided among eight organizations. Since Thunder in the Valley began in 1997, $700,000 has been donated.

Tickets may be purchased in Columbus at McDonald's, Flightways Columbus, Skyline Columbus, Ace Hardware on St. Marys Road, Wingstop on Weems Road and Bruster's Real Ice Cream with locations on Whittlesey Road, Schomburg Road and Macon Road.

Gates open at 10 a.m. and close at 5 p.m.

Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 the day of the show. Children 6 and younger are admitted free.

Military tickets can be purchased at MWR Ticket and Travel at Fort Benning for $8.

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